Over the last several years we have seen one violent uprising after another in cities across America large and small. From the inner cities to the suburbs America's communities are being overridden by violent mob activity. It seems that those in charge would rather inflame the situation rather than find reasonable solutions to the matter.
Time after time we have seen a police interaction with a suspect that goes poorly. The suspect is either mistreated or killed by police. This sparks these mob actions that once lit will spread like a wildfire on a hot, dry and windy day.
There is much talk about police reform these days. This is in addition to reform in other areas like criminal justice, education and environmental. How do we limit the force a police officer can use? How do we punish a police officer for stepping outside of his training and letting his emotions get the best of him? These discussions are all well and fine and a good starting point. It is commonly believed that police officers should be better trained and that they should be, as professionals, know how to de-escalate a situation once it starts. If not, how should they back off and reassess a situation instead of applying lethal force once they are engaged. These are all very worthy questions to be asking.
The reality is that we are missing the most important part of the equation here. In almost all interactions with the police that go wrong it is the citizen who is initiating and escalating the situation. We see citizens trying to attack a police officer or shoot at them with their own weapon. We see citizens who are trying to run over a police officer with his car. We see citizens who refuse to obey the commands of a police officer further escalating the situation. In nearly all cases with police officers that lead to mob rioting, it is the citizen who must share a large part of the blame. While this mentality does not completely exonerate the police for their actions beyond what is necessary it does shift much of the blame to where it should be. What is really needed in this country is citizen reform.
What would citizen reform look like? Most people are not taught how to be a good citizen and what is required of them to live in a cooperative society. What is the proper way to interact with a police officer? This training has failed to materialize in schools where math and science seem to dominate the curriculum. When there is an absence of parents in the home the child often is not given these lessons either. A child raised with a single parent or no parent at all will have a more difficult time learning how to be a good citizen and how to safely interact with police.
Solution: National Service
There is a real viable solution to this societal phenomenon that would help end many of our internal conflicts and strengthen us as a country. That solution is to require all eighteen year olds on completion of high school or their eighteenth birthday to be required to serve a three year contract of service to the country. This service could be in one of several different ways. The following are those ways:
An eighteen year old would be required if he or she chose this category to serve in one of the following for three years: army, navy, air force, marines, coast guard. You would train to be a soldier. If you chose to enlist for more than three years and make a career of it that would also be possible.
This branch would be for those who wished to serve by being out in nature and creating wilderness experiences. A person enrolled in this branch might clear and maintain hiking trails, fight forest fires, serve as an educational docent at a national park or help to clean up ocean litter or oil spills. Teaching organic farming might also be an aspect of this pathway.
A member of the urban corp service might work in an inner city helping homeless communities or at risk youth. You might have skills like in counseling or mental health guidance. Time might be spent teaching people how to be more productive in their lives like in health care management or teaching financial tools. One might also be involved with food service preparation for charity projects.
This is the decades old organization that engages people and communities in their home countries that need assistance. This might include fresh water or fisheries management. Teaching English or literacy might be included.
A service member in this branch would be trained to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or paramedic. They might help with rehab for veterans or assist in natural disasters. They could operate health clinics to screen patients or provide health education courses.
Who does not need help with technology these days? This special branch will assist in building and running government web sites. They will also train in anti-hacking technology. There are many who might not be able to fight a forest fire or serve in the military but this unique branch would give them an opportunity to serve in another capacity.
When did service get such a bad name? There are many countries that require mandatory service for their youth and this requirement only benefits the individual and the nation. For instance, the country of Israel requires mandatory military service for both men and women after your eighteenth birthday. Men are required to serve 32 months and women 24 months.
By requiring mandatory service to one's country you are achieving several unique things. First you are teaching young people how to be disciplined and respect authority. Each person will undergo training that first includes a physical fitness experience before they are trained in their particular field. These fitness trainings might either be a military boot camp, civilian boot camp, yoga boot camp or something simpler for the physically challenged like a tai chi and hiking boot camp.
Next you will be providing job skills that might be applied later on. A person in the medical corp might begin to learn about medicine here and then go on to be a doctor or nurse later on. Participants would be paid a salary and could save most of their money as the majority of their expenses (food, shelter, health insurance) would be provided. This money might be used later on to pay for college or to buy a house.
People would be able to get out of their normal living environment and be exposed to other parts of the country or the world. Many people join the military to "see the world." Being raised in a small town is sometimes claustrophobic and being able to travel and experience other cultures and places opens up one's mind to new ideas.
You will be required to work as a team with others. These are great skills to have going forward. There might be ropes courses or other team experiences where people learn to trust one another. You will also be exposed to a diverse group of people who you might not have ever been exposed to living in the community where you grew up. This will help in allowing people of different races and beliefs to spend time with each other so that they do not fear each other. One of the aspects of the military is that people of all races meet each other and become exposed to one other. In the long-term this will help with our "fear of others" issues in this country that often get confused as racism.
After all of this you might see a civilian population that has more self-respect and respect for others. You might witness a deeper appreciation for this country and all that it provides for us. Much of the division and animosity might disappear as we find common ground to work on things together.
Reform of civilians means that civilians must serve their country so that they understand the importance of what their country has provided for them. Reform is not a dirty word. Every time we point a finger at police departments as the source of our problems there are three fingers pointing back at us. Let's just start at the bottom and begin to reform ourselves so that going forward future generations will only benefit.